Beyond the Wall of Sleep

I have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences- Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism- there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier.

So writes H.P. Lovecraft at the opening of his short story, Beyond the Wall of Sleep. I don’t sleep much anymore, finding that my nights bleed into the morning, at which point exhaustion overtakes me and my body shuts down for a few hours. Even then, it is only my body and not mind that finds rest – a combination of ideas, stresses and the overall feeling that I’m wasting life if I sleep too much tends to keep me active, even when at rest. I rarely have nightmares, though when I do they are truly horrific, and I’m convinced that many of the contents of my mind aren’t meant for human consumption. Likewise, rarely do I have dreams that are ‘normal,’ in the sense that I go about my usual physical life. The majority of my dreams are surreal and fantastic and often when I try to describe them later I simply have no words.

The more I read Lovecraft, the more convinced I am that he was like the majority of writers – he drew from his personal experiences in the great drama of life for his stories, and while others have suggested that he was a troubled man from a troubled family, I wonder if maybe his situation wasn’t something too terribly different from Joe Slater – that a higher intelligence was awake in his mind yet he never was able to reconcile the two, being able only to put pen to paper and give form to a formless thing through the power of the written word. Perhaps that was the reconciliation he sought, and was in fact the breach in that ‘all but impassable barrier.’


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